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Our Accounting Spotlights highlight inspirational leaders in the profession who are making a difference for their clients and community. Know someone who deserves to be featured? Submit a nomination.

In our latest Accountant Spotlight Series, we're thrilled to introduce Shawn Elliott, Head of Accounting and CFO of High Rock Accounting. His story is one of curiosity, empathy, and a strategic growth mindset.

An early fascination with savings

At an early age, Shawn Elliott opened his first savings account, funded by childhood savings amassed from birthday money and mowing lawns. As the savings grew, Shawn quickly came to learn the “time value of money” concept: a sum of money has greater value now than it will in the future due to its earnings potential. This realization inspired his interest in accounting. After taking his first accounting course in high school, Shawn continued on to obtain his Bachelor of Science degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, with a dual major in Accounting and Management Information Systems.

Shawn’s early fascination with growing savings through proper management of money led to a 22+ year career as an accounting professional, one in which he continues to gain expertise as a CFO. Starting at a small CPA firm that focused on audits of school districts and charter schools in Phoenix, Shawn cut his teeth working long hours and traveling extensively throughout Arizona. Deciding to make the switch to corporate accounting after four years in public accounting, Shawn joined a specialty pharmacy company called The Apothecary Shops (now Avella). After spending his first nine months cleaning up  three years’ worth of books to comply with GAAP accounting (generally accepted accounting principles), Shawn was quickly promoted to accounting manager. A little over six years later, Shawn started a fertility pharmacy with a former pharmacist coworker, called Integrity Rx Specialty Pharmacy. Building the pharmacy from a concept to a $50M operation, Shawn rounded out his corporate accounting career as Executive Vice President of Operations. Witnessing certain trends in the industry, Shawn made the decision to move back into public accounting, beginning his current and latest leadership role at High Rock Accounting.

From auditing school districts to CFO

As the CFO of High Rock Accounting, a firm that enables clients to build their business anytime and anywhere in the world, Shawn finds himself back in public accounting after an impressive and diverse career journey. When joining High Rock as an accounting manager in 2019, he was initially tasked with growing the firm’s industry verticals, with a specific focus on cannabis, healthcare biotech, and technology (SaaS). After several years of growth, he was promoted to head of accounting, with an expanded leadership role overseeing the entire portfolio of industries. Today, in addition to these responsibilities, Shawn serves as the CFO of the entire firm.  

Approaching five years at High Rock, Shawn credits the culture of the company for his tenure. “Coming from corporate accounting where you are dispensable, to High Rock Accounting where they value you as a human and care about you as an individual,” Shawn reflects, has been his favorite part of the job. The internal culture among employees at High Rock is reflected in the way Shawn engages with clientele as well. He says, “I treat my clients how I would like to be treated. Be honest, do what you say you are going to, and treat them as a person.” Being able to break down complex accounting terms into simplified, human-centric communication has been a competitive differentiator that keeps clients loyal. 

Helping clients learn about their business through financials 

As firms rely more heavily on AI and machine learning, High Rock Accounting is poised to succeed, with a mission that mirrors the application of such technology. Founded to use technology to increase efficiency in accounting, High Rock is implementing tools that allow the firm to deepen their client advisory service line. Companies like Ramp allow the High Rock team to save time and focus on key offerings. “[Ramp] has probably one of the best AI engines out there,” Shawn observes. By using machine learning to convert PDF documents into bills, code automatically, and integrate directly with accounting systems, High Rock is harnessing technology to shift the accounting landscape. 

Having worked with a multitude of clients over the years, Shawn has gained insight into the challenges that persist across company size and industry. Of these, cash flow management is an especially prevalent and important obstacle to overcome. “Whether you are a tech company pre-revenue having to keep a close eye on your runway or a cannabis company who is unable to gain loans through normal banking channels, everyone struggles with this,” explains Shawn. Without a proper strategy in place, companies are saddled with necessary budget cuts, resulting in potential layoffs, or even bankruptcy. 

In addition to cash flow management, clients are similarly impacted by a lack of knowledgeable accounting staff. “I see clients using staff not trained in accounting to do their books, hiring the wrong level of accounting professional to match their current business complexity, and having accounting teams who are not growing and expanding their industry knowledge.” Shawn notes that it is critical that leaders address this in a proper and timely manner, lest they find themselves facing adverse outcomes, such as failing audits, defaulting on loans, or paying too much in taxes. 

In summary

Since the day Shawn Elliott opened his first savings account, he's been on a quest to deepen and expand not only his expertise, but his ability to help others succeed. This dedication to supporting others is something he practices in his personal life as well. Often described as the glue that keeps his family together, Shawn is committed to helping his family thrive and address challenges, with his wife’s muscular dystrophy diagnosis and his daughter’s cerebral palsy diagnosis. He shares, “I am fortunate to work for a firm that lets me work from home where I can provide those little things throughout the day, but still have a vibrant career where I leverage my accounting skills.”

At Ramp, we celebrate Shawn’s empathetic approach centered on empowering clients, and his significant impact on the accounting industry. Spanning public accounting, corporate accounting, and a diverse array of industries, Shawn and his firm have contributed to the growth of countless companies.

Nominate an accountant who you feel deserves a place in our Spotlight Series!

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Head of Accounting Partner Channel, Ramp
Brad Gustafson leads the Accounting Partnerships Channel at Ramp. He has spent the past decade advising and consulting thousands of accounting firms across the United States, including managing Top 100 accounting firm partnerships as an Enterprise Account Director at Xero. He is motivated to help build a community of accountants around Ramp who are passionate about new technologies and the opportunities they provide the accounting profession.
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